BEST OF 2021 – DAVE WILKS (Radio DJ/Writer)

BEST OF 2021 – DAVE WILKS

You can find the Collective List as well as all our Best of 2021 content including contributors’ individual lists, podcasts and radio DJ shows here: CGCM’s Best of 2021 (Year in Review)

BEST OF 2021

DAVE WILKS 🇺🇸

(Radio DJ/Writer)

This year I had the privilege of programming the new music for CGCM Rock Radio. In the last twelve months, I wrote thirty articles and hosted twenty-three episodes of The Beaver Buzz, CGCM‘s all-new music show. In that time I listened to nearly 800 new tracks from artists around the world. I immersed myself in new music in 2021 and way more than ten albums were among my favourites.

I had a really difficult time narrowing the list down to ten. Ultimately, many albums that didn’t make the top list could have easily made my top 10. It’s worth calling out a few.

NOTABLE RELEASES THAT DIDN’T PLACE

There were the EPs that, while fantastic, couldn’t overcome the fact that they maxed out at 3-5 songs. White Buffalo by Crown Lands—with my most played song of the year, “White Buffalo,” The Tree-P by Square Wild, and It’s a Vibe by Foust are all worth your time.

Then there were the latecomers, albums that might have climbed into the top 10 with a few more listens. The mark of many great albums is how it grows on you. Checkered Past by L.A. Guns, Servant Of The Mind by Volbeat, and Don’t Spare The Wicked by Fortress all got their hooks into me and maybe a few more listens would have put them over the top. You should still check them out.

And then there were the albums that I just couldn’t find a place for in the top 10. Too Mean to Die by Accept is brilliant, but 11 is a lonely number on a top 10 list. Dirty Damn Tricks by The L.A. Maybe got better with every listen and maybe a few more would’ve been enough to bump something else out of the top 10. The Age of Lies by Electronomicon, Black Candy by Snake Bite Whisky, Bad Habits by Mädhouse, and Waiting for Good Luck by The Treatment constantly blasted from my speakers in 2021.

Are the albums in my list the best of 2021? Writing this in December, I can definitely say they’re my favourites. They’re my favourites because they are all unique and represent my taste in rock and metal. If you like any of these, you’ll probably dig the others. These albums took over my listening for days and weeks, which is always a tell that I’ll listen to them for years to come.

So, before this turns into a recipe on the web with a bunch of bullshit before getting to the actual good stuff (I might be too late), here’s my list.

THE DEAD DEADS 🇺🇸

Tell Your Girls It’s Alright

The insanely catchy “Deal with Me” kicked off my anticipation, and “Murder Ballad II” with Corey Taylor guesting revved it up. The Dead Deads did not disappoint with the release of Tell Your Girls It’s Alright. The album is well-named and could help parents wean their daughters off Ariana Grande or Dua Lipa. If you have one of these in your life, feed them some “Sea Beast.”

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[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JEAM_jufvk[/embedyt]

STOP STOP! 🇪🇸

Lowcost Life

If you’re in the mood for some fun, upbeat rock and roll with loads of snark and innuendo, then Spain’s Stop, Stop! is for you. The video for “Big Vaccine” is hilarious. Watch it, then be sure to catch the of their stuff on YouTube. In the song “Raised on Rock & Roll,” Stop, Stop! showed that being raised on Rock and Roll isn’t about writing a song with that title, it’s actually demonstrating it with a song that proves you were, in fact, raised on the metal🤘.

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[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fu70taxyZqc[/embedyt]

UNTO OTHERS 🇺🇸

Strength

Out of Portland, Oregon, Unto Others, formerly known as Idle Hands, dropped a ferocious goth-metal album in 2021. Strength has a broad appeal for metalheads across all sub-genres. It’s dark and brooding, while also heavy and melodic. Gabriel Franco‘s powerful vocals lead the way, while Sebastian Silva‘s guitar work stands out. I saw them in Denver, Colorado on their fall tour and Unto Other‘s performance was outstanding. At a minimum, be sure to check out “Downtown” and “When will God’s Work be Done.”

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[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Es4o0t3Z0C8[/embedyt]

AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS 🇺🇸

Comfort To Me

CGCM is not a punk website, but Suicidal Tendencies and Corrosion of Conformity bridged any rifts between punk and metal long ago. The genres are intertwined, tied together by screaming guitars and high energy. There was no higher energy release in 2021 than Comfort To Me. Want to tap into that energy? Check out “Guided by Angels” and “Security.”

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[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z–D1flPLnk[/embedyt]

UNKNOWN REFUGE 🇬🇧

From the Darkness

I challenge you to resist cranking this one up while listening to the opening riff of “To the Light.” Metal is in good hands with the lads from Bolton, England. The album is a tight collection of nine absolute bangers, plus a cool intro track. You can’t go wrong with “Battle Hymn,” “I’m Not a Bad Guy,” or the face-melting “Shadows.” In my review in May, I called the album flawless, and I stand by that. The lads in Unknown Refuge created a surprisingly mature-sounding metal masterpiece with elements of Metallica, Maiden, and Volbeat.

My review of the album HERE

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[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HEoBLm5JbI[/embedyt]

KICKIN VALENTINA 🇺🇸

Revenge of Rock

At CGCM, we all love Kickin Valentina and the odds are pretty high you’ll see it on CGCM’s Best of 2021 (Year in Review). And why not? Revenge of Rock is sleaze rock perfection that destroys from beginning to end.

The album was made for ear-splitting spins on the record player and blasts from car speakers. I lucked into renting a convertible this year, not too far from the band’s stomping ground in Atlanta, Georgia. Cruising the Blue Ridge Mountains with “War,” “Freak Show,” and “Rat Race” at 11 was a sublime rock experience. There’s not a skippable song on this classic. “Somebody New” shows how easily the band moves from gritty rock to more radio-friendly glam. KV takes a trip down memory lane with “End of the Road” — and if you lived it, you know how perfect the song is. Even when they slow it down a notch the songs are still badass, like on “Rose Tattoo.”

CGCM album review by Trevor McDougall HERE

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[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEAHytW9qo4[/embedyt]

HAUNT 🇺🇸

Beautiful Distraction

Haunt only managed two releases this year, but that was only because of the slow down in vinyl production. Few bands consistently release at the pace and high-quality level of Haunt, and Beautiful Distraction is yet another killer traditional heavy metal album. Trevor William Church—vocals, bass, guitars, synths, and drums—is a master at evoking mood through careful synths and layered instrumentation. The title track, while a little more tender than the usual Haunt fare, still maintains the speed and heaviness you’re used to. Every song is a treat, but if you’re looking for any other tracks to sample, you can’t go wrong with “Keeping Watch” or “Face of Danger.” If you’re looking for any more info, check out the full review from February.

My review of the album HERE

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[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkuHycyvxYU[/embedyt]

DREAM TROLL 🇬🇧

Realm of the Tormentor

With more hooks than a tackle box, Realm of the Tormentor is a brilliant metal album. Dream Tröll breathes fresh air into old-school metal with their own unique twist. Now as a quartet with new singer Ash Elliot, they tear through six blazing songs. “Realm of the Tormentor” and “Winner Takes Nothing” easily find a spot near the top in my favourite songs of 2021. They’re fast, heavy, and captivating. Simon Blakelock‘s bass stands out throughout the album. Check out my review, but more importantly, dig into Realm of the Tormentor. You won’t regret it.

My review of the album HERE

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[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPdlzNMg26o[/embedyt]

LESBIAN BED DEATH 🇬🇧

The Witching Hour

CGCM played the first single, “The Witching Hour,” In April, instantly bewitching me. “Breakfast at Tisiphone’sfollowed in June kicking up the anticipation for the album that finally dropped in October. And at fourteen songs, The Witching Hour is an absolute blood feast of horror-themed gothic punk, metal, and rock. The songs are perfectly crafted and feel like a night at a horror movie marathon. If you pair The Plague Sessions, re-recordings of earlier work this time with Luci4 on vocals, you’ve got even more goodness. I could gush about this gem all day, but I’ll spare you and just point to my review.

My review of the album HERE

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[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBY3uyYRKXQ[/embedyt]

THE METAL BYRDS 🇺🇸

4

If you’ve been paying attention to The Beaver Buzz, CGCM‘s new music show, and accompanying articles, my favourite album should come as no surprise. The Metal Byrds from Austin, Texas just blow me away with their creativity, songwriting, and consistency. On 4, the band takes another step toward rock and roll domination. Vocalist Suzanne Birdie enchants while Sly Rye Whisky’s riffs, solos, and distinctive tones continue to blow me away.

I’m not sure that my review in October did this album justice. “Life of the Party” is fun as hell and showcases the whole band with Alex Romanov‘s beats standing out. On “Absolute“, the bass line from Kevin Kurts is brilliant, but the song belongs to Sly‘s psychedelic guitars and Birdie‘s huge vocals. The pandemic brought out the reminiscent side of the Metal Byrds, and “Midnight With You” takes a well-worn path with a timeless approach. The slowdown lasts only one song as “Spitfire Pete” launches the album back into hard rocking territory.

Perhaps a bit auto-biographical, “The Most Difficult Girl in the World” is power-pop at its finest, with a brisk beat and a killer solo. On the first listen, “Little Lies” didn’t stand out as a favourite, but grew on me with every listen. It’s the audio equivalent of a Central Texas night around the campfire: charming, earnest, and memorable.

The Metal Byrds close 4 the way they opened it, with a fun, upbeat rocker called “Midnite Fury.” The character of “Midnite Fury“, a stand-in for Sly (I think) “loves Rock and Roll.” Their genuine love of Rock is precisely what makes The Metal Byrds so awesome, and 4 is their love letter to Rock and Roll.

My review of the album HERE

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[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcSY5GiGrBw[/embedyt]

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2022

2021 was certainly a challenging year, but thanks to the hard work of the amazing artists, music helped me through it. Looks like 2022 might be the same, so here’s to rock and roll! Be sure to keep tabs on The Beaver Buzz for all the new music on CGCM.

DAVE WILKS

Find more of my album reviews here: DAVE WILKS

Don’t forget to take a look at all our Best of 2021 content including the COLLECTIVE BEST ALBUMS LIST (culminated via the ratings in the individual lists), all our contributors’ individual best lists, podcast episodes and Radio DJ shows CGCM’s Best of 2021 (Year in Review)